This week PhotographyKC had the opportunity to interview Michelle Smith of M. Smith Portraits. Michelle is a Kansas City photographer who not only has a beautiful portfolio but also uses her photography to help those in need.
I grew up in the Kansas City area. Most of my childhood was spent in a house that my dad built us in Lee’s Summit. I spent Kindergarten through 10th grade in LS. We moved to Independence when I was a 16. Switching schools as a junior, and not knowing anybody, was a challenging experience for me, but looking back I am very thankful for the lessons that it taught me. I am so proud of Kansas City. It is a beautiful city with so much to do! I feel blessed to live far out in the country, yet still have the ability to drive into the city and experience all that it has to offer.
I’ve always loved taking pictures and videos. I took photography classes in high school. Back then (early 2000’s) we were still taught with film and dark rooms in school. In 2007, my aunt and uncle asked me to take my cousin’s senior pictures. I had never done a real photo shoot before, and didn’t have a very good digital camera, but I had an eye for it and really enjoyed the session! That’s what started it all! I am so thankful that they gave me a chance, and helped me begin this journey!
My first “real” camera was a Canon Rebel T3i. I shot with that for a very long time. A few years ago, my husband bought me the Canon 7d Mark ii for Christmas. I’m currently saving up for a full frame camera, however, I am a firm believer that photography has little to do with the equipment you use, and everything to do with your understanding of light, composition and being able to connect with your subjects.
My friends and family have always been very supportive. Like many photographers, they were my first clients! My husband and children are often helping me prepare for sessions, whether that be loading up my car, or making sure my batteries are charged. My mom always proofreads my website and blog. Recently I’ve “hired” my 11 year old nephew to assist me on my mini sessions. He wants to be a photographer when he grows up, and is working for me to save up to buy my old Canon Rebel 🙂
To be totally honest, my answer to this question would be life and death. Let me explain… My children are adopted from foster care, and I have very few photos of their early lives. That makes me so sad for them. I think everyone deserves to have photos to look back on from their childhood. I am very passionate about providing this for families and children. Also, last year my 17 year old nephew, Jay Jay, was killed in a car crash by a reckless driver. He suffered for 10 days before passing away. I’ve been blessed to take his pictures throughout his life, and those pictures were, and still continue to be, a comfort for me and so many other people – including many of his friends and class mates that I’ve never met. I BEG people to get family pictures done while they are able to. We won’t get to have any more family pictures with Jay Jay in them… but we CHERISH every single one that we were able to take while we had him here with us.
I love working with families. Due to growing up with foster siblings, and then becoming a foster parent myself (and then later an adoptive parent and step-parent) I think I have a unique ability to work with children. If I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned patience! I pride myself on interacting with families in a way that makes the experience stress-free and fun. I also enjoy shooting weddings. I have a wonderful second shooter, Radel Hinckley Photography, who is my cousin. We make a great wedding photography team!
My favorite place to shoot is on my own property. We have 180 acres with so many beautiful backdrops to choose from. Ponds, creeks, fields, barns, dirt roads… and then there’s the amazing trees in the fall! I love when clients choose our property for their session. It is so nice not to have to go to a public location or park, where there are so many distractions, and onlookers.
I think what separates me most is my ability to connect with my clients and put them at ease during our sessions. I am pretty good at reading people’s personalities and figuring out what works and what doesn’t to get those genuine smiles and good interaction with each other. I would also probably say that having my private property to use for sessions is something that my clients find to be an added bonus. I don’t compare myself to other photographers… I’m all about community over competition! Each photographer sees things a little bit differently. The key is to find the perfect “fit” for you, and if that’s not me, I can point you to many others in the area! As long as you promise to get your pictures taken, I’m happy!
I am so excited that I am able to use my photography business to give back to organizations and charities that have either directly impacted me, or my clients. Click here to see all of the ways that I give back: https://www.msmithportraits.com/givingback/